Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Menopause - HERE I COME!

I am making a big, huge deal about this whole menopause thing. I got my first shot of Lupron today. Again, the side effects will be mild compared to harsher treatments like chemotherapy. It just feels weird. When I take a step back and just focus on the fact that Lupron will decrease my hormone levels and hopefully shrink tumors - I am totally cool. If I think about how it shuts off my ovaries and basically takes me through a pseudo-menopause - I'm totally not cool.

Full disclosure: it did not hurt that much. The needle was the biggest needle I've had stuck in me: Boo. But still, I have to touch the injection site to feel anything. Which is good.

Here is what I have to look forward to (according to the Google): a surge of hormones in the first few weeks, then a steady decrease (hopefully); hot flashes; mood swings; and that's it. There are other side effects, I'm going to focus on not experiencing those (thinning hair, weight changes).

I'm afraid that I'll be a different person without my hormones. I mean, I've had hormones for forever...and obviously don't know an adult life without them.

If I'm snippy in the next few weeks or months, this is why.

I want to share this article before I end this post: Soy Supplements and Breast Cancer
There's a lot of info around about soy and breast cancer - and I truly do not want to be an alarmist. But...this study shows that soy protein isolate makes breast cancer more aggressive and harder to treat. This basically means no soy protein. It also means yes edamame and tofu!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I'm Going to Need More Fingers

I think it's time for me to stop and count my blessings. The people in my life are awesome...and they love me. This is -hands down- the greatest way for a people person (like me) to be blessed. Friends, family, and acquaintances will send me things, bring me things, make me things, and write me things - all things that take away the sting of losing so much to something so insane.

A good (and hilarious) friend of mine started a heart chain for me on Facebook. She got a crapload of people to post pictures of hearts for me. They were cute, funny, creative-as-hell, and each one made me happy-cry in ways that also made me grateful to be at home where people couldn't see my happy-cry face.

Another friend is a doctor at City of Hope. When I found out about my humerus last week, she asked if I was going to COH for a second opinion. I told her I was...but...I couldn't get an appointment until February 24. Not even 24 hours later, I get a Facebook message from her telling me that she snagged me an appointment on Monday. So...here's the thing: I hate missing work. Not only did she get me an appointment super quick, she also made it on a day I already have off. Seriously, nothing could be better.

This story is going to be kind of cheesy-hopeful, but bear with me. I thought I was going to be starting chemo, so in my mind, I did all the preparations. I thought about how I should cut my hair short, buy all new skincare products, rearrange my work calendar, etc. all around my having to get chemo soon. Luckily, I was able to go to COH first, where the oncologist told me a whole mess of stuff that was awesome and terrible all at once.

I learned so much in this consultation on Monday and after today's consultation at UC Irvine, C and I are so ready to move onward and upward. It's hard to write this blog sometimes, because I want to share everything and document everything in decent detail. Unfortunately...things happen SO quickly. Decisions are made, information is given, and plans change. So in quick-ish outline form, here is what happened:

To recap: My PET scan showed a new cancerous spot on my humerus (where my right shoulder is). Other tumors measured larger. I started tamoxifen on October 28, 2013. My oncologist in OC says we should start chemo soon.

At City of Hope: I get scolded for declining Lupron shots. Lupron is the shot that will shut my ovaries down completely and have me go through menopause in a manner of months. The COH oncologist tells me that it would have been for sure better to have started Lupron months ago. We did not know that. I cried and immediately felt embarrassed (for crying). We learn about flares.

Flares are something that can happen on the road to hormone therapy working.
Many patients in my situation will experience a flare in the beginning stages of hormone therapy.
Flares will cause tumor growth and pain.
Flares often indicate that hormone therapy is working.

At UC Irvine: The newest doctor I've met with lets us know that he recommends we continue with hormone therapy (we told him nothing about what COH said). He wants us to consider using a different drug (to replace tamoxifen).

So C and I now have to decide if I want to give tamoxifen a chance for 2 more months (COH) or switch to Femara (UCI). I'm leaning towards tamoxifen.

How blessed am I to have had a thoughtful friend intervene and get me a faster appointment at City of Hope before I cut my hair or did something crazy!?!?!?


Sunday, February 9, 2014

This is a Marathon...and There are Hurdles

When something bad is happening, I brace myself and try to get as much info as possible right off the bat. If I feel like someone is upset with me, I need to know how, why, when, what, and how bad is it??? It's alarmingly necessary for me to know what the worst-case scenario is immediately.

Then comes cancer. Ugh. What can I say? The worst-case scenario is really bad and out of my control. I had a PET scan on February 5th and the results weren't great. The PET scan itself? Awesome. I requested the same tech - he was fabulous and did not disappoint. The actual results were less fabulous.
I had the scan on a Wednesday and made an appointment for results on Friday. I had this work thing that I did not want to miss right after the appointment and decided to move it to Monday. A wise friend asked me: Are you sure you want to wait the whole weekend?
I got to the oncologist and was by myself for the first half of the appointment, in which I learned that:
I was crushed. I was really hoping for something better (who wouldn't), but the spread to another bone really bothered me. Based on these results, my doc wanted to abandon hormone treatment and move on to chemo.
Things shifted into overdrive. I started calling City of Hope and UC Irvine docs to get second/third opinions immediately.
Some days, it feels like the more info I have, the worse it is. There just isn't a whole lot of good news. Yet...I still ask for the info. I can't stop. But there are lows - and there are highs, and I have a feeling that things are looking up.

No joke, I was like: Um...of course! 

Man did I misjudge my crazy mind. 

Thursday morning, I ended up calling the doctor to see if they could squeeze me back in on Friday. They could not. So here I am, consoling myself, when the nurse asks if I can come in the afternoon? On Thursday! Seriously, I just had the PET scan the previous morning. Bless my boss' heart she was totally cool with me taking the appointment and going to get the results. Which were not good.

A) The tumors grew
B) I have a new tumor in my humerus

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Is it Time?

The month of January was...interesting for me. October to December was consumed with being sad and then the holidays happened, which are surprisingly not an effective way to cheer someone up. I thought it would be different. But I felt numb to the cheer periodically and really appreciated the time off to just decompress and spend some incredibly low-key/do nothing/laze on the couch time with my husband.

Once I found out the tamoxifen wasn’t working (Dec 26), I think things began to change. I’m starting to feel like maybe it is time to take charge and do something about something. Who knows what though? There are so many aspects of “fighting” cancer – it’s all overwhelming. How exactly should I “fight”?

For many years, I’ve been passive-aggressively attempting to get really healthy. I kind of made it (sometime around 2012) with lots of cardio, Pilates, and a really good diet. When I started working full-time, that kind of fell by the wayside. 

In January I decided that I needed some sort of intervention, and short of calling it a New Year's Resolution, I made changes. I started with a promise to myself for the month of January: I would drink one green smoothie and eat one salad each day. I don't think I noticed the benefits in one fell swoop, but I did - and continue to - feel amazing. Eating that much produce made a marked difference in how I feel. I did break my promise for three days, when I did a juice cleanse. Other than that, though, I stuck to it pretty well.

As for the juice cleanse, it was amaaaaaaazing. I loved it - and can't wait to do it again. I'm a compulsive overeater so it was a really good experience to feel not full for three days. The second and third day and the day immediately following were fabulous for me. I had so much energy and generally felt awesome! I would definitely want to do this periodically. 

For the month of February, I'm promising myself to go to the gym more. I've been slacking off and it's so easy to make excuses, even if it's just to go home and do absolutely nothing. So that's happening...so far, I do feel pretty good, and I think it's because I have month of healthy eating to back it up. :)

I'm home from the gym tonight - no workout, no caffeine, and no CARBS in preparation for a PET scan tomorrow. Full disclosure: I am so scared. I am hoping so hard for this to yield positive results. Just physically though, the tumors that I can feel do not seem to be shrinking, so my optimism is measured.

Regardless of what happens, I will be trying to make positive progress in other parts of my life every month. New month, new promise.